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1st Unit : 1st Meeting of Study Group Series “Views of Humanity and the World in the Meiji Period”

"Ethics of Expression: An Application of the Non-dualism found in Buddhist Philosophy to Contemporary Questions"

 

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On May 14, 2014, Professor Gereon Kopf (Ircp Visiting Researcher, Luther College) gave a presentation entitled “Ethics of Expression: An Application of the Non-dualism found in Buddhist Philosophy to Contemporary Questions” at a study group session held at Toyo University (Hakusan Campus, Building 1, Room 1202). This study group session was first installment in the Meeting of Study Group Series “Views of Humanity and the World in the Meiji Period”. This is a summary by Presenter himself.

  The term “non-dualism” was first introduced as the English translation of the term “advaita” used in Indian philosophy to describe the monistic position of Advaita Vedānta. However, I use the term “non-dualism” as an alternative to dualism, monism, and, by extension, the individualist pluralism à la Leibniz’s monadology. Non-dualism does not deny differences but rather the notion of essence, which lies at the core of the positions outlined by the rationalists and their problems.

Dividing reality into two unconnected realms, dualism is unable to bridge the gap between these realms and denies multiplicity; the claim to a unified one world, makes monism unable to explain difference and multiplicity. Essentialist pluralism cannot account for interaction among individual essences. In response to these positions, non-dualism suggests one world without essences, whose citizens can interact and communicate.

  As it is well-known, Buddhist texts that advance non-dualism explicitly suggest a middle way equally eschewing an affirmation or a negation of the self; other use the phrases “mutual interpenetration of the noumenon and the phenomena” (事事無碍lishiwuai) and “mutual interpenetration among the phenomena” (理事無碍shishiwuai) to describe human existence in light of Mahāyāna Buddhist cosmology.

Mutairisaku, who inherited the philosophies of his teachers Nishidakitarō and Tanabehajime, used similar conceptual constructions to frame a philosophical vision of postwar globalization. Borrowing the three terms “individual,” “world,” and “specific” from his teachers, Mutai suggests that the individual expresses the totality of the world by means of “specific” identities.

  Using Mutai’s terminology, I suggest that persons are formed in the encounter with other individuals and with a plethora of identities. Persons not only emerge from a network of relationships, they also express multiple identities. While Mutai uses the term “specific” predominantly with regard to national and ethnic communities, I expand it to refer to identities in general. Because persons are formed in dialogue with others, self-awareness depends on the knowledge of the other and vice versa. Similarly, philosophical positions are shaped in dialogue with other positions and express the standpoints and moral attitudes of the persons who hold them. This is what I call “ethics of expression.”2